The U.S. Department of Energy activated the HanfordEmergency Operations Center at 8:26 a.m. Tuesday morning following a cave-in that created a 20-by-20-foot hole [pictured below] in the roof of the tunnel. The breached tunnel was used to "bury radioactive waste from the production of plutonium", Inslee said.
The U.S. Department of Energy, Richland, West Richland, and other local fire and police officials as well as Washington state patrol and OR and Washington state officials all responded to the scene, according to KING5. Several rail cars used to transport the irradiated fuel rods from the Hanford nuclear reactors to the processing canyons are temporarily buried inside a tunnel near PUREX as a result of becoming contaminated. The site will cost the department $2.3 billion this fiscal year alone.
The collapse was discovered during a routine inspection, the agency said.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit last fall against the Energy Department and its contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions, contending vapors released from underground nuclear waste tanks posed a serious risk to workers.
Workers in the immediate area have been evacuated.
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Responding agencies include the U.S. Department of Energy; Richland, West Richland, and Kennewick city fire and police; Benton, Franklin, and Grant County fire and police officials; Washington state patrol; and OR and Washington state officials. Hanford said there's no indication of a release of contamination and no reports of injuries.
"We don't know exactly how the soil caved in, it's too early", Heeter said. It connects to a PUREX (plutonium uranium extraction) building.
Hanford, which is roughly half the size of Rhode Island, spent decades making plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal.
The senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said he is requesting that the Energy Department brief the committee on the root cause of the collapse.
Pallone said the Energy Department should provide details on the implications of the incident on continuing cleanup efforts.
"So are you committed to funding Hanford cleanup and what it takes and getting the waste treatment plant finished?"
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